NEW YORK – In her highly anticipated debut over 26.2 miles, Shalane Flanagan on Sunday turned in the highest place finish by an American woman at the ING New York City Marathon in 20 years, placing second in 2:28:40 and winning the 2010 USA Women’s Marathon Championship.
In a race in which competition took precedence over time trials, Flanagan found a race that suited her. The Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist and American record holder at that distance ran with a huge women’s lead pack through most of the race, as the average mile pace hovered close to 6:00 for the first 5 km (18:40).
The size of the lead pack, no fewer than 18 women strong when the half marathon was passed in 1:15:52, reflected the wide-open nature of the field. Without the long shadow of world record holder Paula Radcliffe looming over the starting line, athletes such as Flanagan, world half marathon champion Mary Keitany of Kenya, 2010 road racing “it” girl Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, defending champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia and ’09 runner-up Ludmila Petrova of Russia all were ready to take their shot at the winner’s podium.
The race started to shape up at around the 30k mark as the pace began to quicken, with a split of 1:14:12. Approximately 2 hours into the race, 13 women still remained in the lead pack, but Flanagan and Keitany at that point assumed positions at the front of the group.
Shortly past the 35km marker, at a water stop approximately 2:07 into the race, Flanagan, Keitany and Kiplagat separated themselves from the pack, and at that point the race was on. Flanagan led the three women into Central Park, with Keitany and Kiplagat both looking great on her heels. A 23rd mile passed in 4:58 proved this was no longer a tactical race.
As they approached mile 25, Kiplagat, the 2010 Honda Los Angeles Marathon winner, pulled away with long strides. By the 25th mile she had a 5-second lead over Keitany as Flanagan fell back to third. The American moved into second along Central Park South but Kiplagat extended her lead, crossing the finish line in 2:28:20, 20 seconds up on Flanagan. Keitany, who like Flanagan was making her marathon debut, finished third in 2:29:01, with Inga Abitova of Russia fourth in 2:29:17 and New Zealand’s Kim Smith fifth in 2:29:28.
Kiplagat took home $135,000 for the win and $5,000 for breaking 2:29, while Flanagan won $110,000 in prize money: $65,000 as overall runner-up, an additional $40,000 for winning the USA women’s title and a $5,000 time bonus for breaking 2:29. Flanagan’s performance was the best placing by an American at this race since Kim Jones finished second in 1990 in 2:30:50.
“My team really prepared me for this moment and this stage to seize and opportunity that was out there,” Flanagan said. “I stayed calm and collected. I tried to stay with the women for as long as I could. It came down to who had the legs and the heart. I couldn’t be more pleased in my first marathon, really.
“Having a win is the ultimate goal. As soon as I finished second, I thought about what I could have done to finish first … My passion for the marathon is very strong after today.”
American Katie McGregor was with the women’s lead pack until almost 25 km. The 2010 USA 10-mile and 15 mile champion, she crossed the finish line as the second American, 11th overall in 2:31:01 to place second in the USA Championships and set a personal record. Kathy Newberry was third American and 17th overall in 2:35:23. With her performance, McGregor finished off the 2010 USARC winning the women’s overall standings. Antonio Vega won the men’s overall standings.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS